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The reason I remember Lisa Genova’s Still Alice is because it was the first book on Alzheimer’s that I had read and because I had cried through the book. Sally Hepworth’s The Things We Keep is also sad and deals with Alzheimer’s, death and alienation, but a ray of hope shines through the narrative, leaving me smiling.
Rosalind House, an assisted-living facility, is where all the action takes place. Alzheimer’s had always been associated with older people, so when thirty eight years old Anna discovers that her usual forgetfulness is actually early onset Alzheimer’s, things start changing for her. “These days, the most interesting conversations I have are about my favourite color or type of food. I like it when people remember that I’m a person, not just a person with Alzheimer’s….That’s the thing about dementia: You can forget for a moment, even an hour. But sooner or later, dementia reminds you- and everyone else- that it’s there….” Though memory fails, love keeps Anna going and that’s what stands out.
Eve Bennett’s life falls apart the day her husband leaves her in a lurch. With Clementine in tow, she traverses the downs, and in order to bring back normalcy in her daughter’s life, takes on a job at Rosalind House. “One of the best things about cooking is that, by and large, you can control it….Dealing with real life is nowhere near so simple.Since Richard died, some days I get the feeling I am falling down a hole with nothing to grasp on to….” As her path collides with Anna’s, she finds herself looking at life from a different perspective.
Little Clementine has her own way of dealing with problems and her interactions with the inmates of Rosalind House help her deal with her father’s desertion.
“Daddy, I miss you every day.
I miss the way we used to play.
You were the best dad in the world.
And I was such a lucky girl.
I miss how you always made me laugh.
When you did funny voices with my toy giraffe.
Now you’re gone I want to cry.
And that is not even a lie.
Why did you have to die when I was seven.
I wish you could come back to me from Heaven.”
Written in first person, from the viewpoint of Anna, Eve and Clementine, the story flows delicately, connecting each character and delving deep into their psyche. While there is relatively enough drama, anxiety and excitement to keep the pages turning, the simplicity of love adds the sublimeness to the reading experience.
An introspective and pleasurable read!